Stories are an integral part of our society and have been for thousands of years. Whether the Odyssey, the Bible, Star Wars or Romeo & Juliet, the stories of the present and past have almost all been intended to tell us something. Not particularly something about the past although many are historical in nature. More often than not, stories are trying to tell us something about the human condition. Although a form of entertainment, they can also be instructive.
Characters are not just imaginary people to play make believe for us real humans. They represent a myriad of possible traits, life courses and mindsets. Whether Han Solo, Jesus, the Lorax or Hector, each one offers the gift of possibility. The idea of a life slightly different from our own. They offer themselves up in front of us on the screen or the page in order for us to judge them and their value. At that point their power or lack there of is left up to us.
What’s missing from the story is you. If you only admire the heroism of Han Solo or the kindness of Jesus but never transfer it into your own life, then these characters truly are lifeless. However, if you’re willing to take up their plight from the page, then they truly do live. It is not enough for heroism, kindness and love to exist in movies and books because evil and hatred are alive in the real world. So if you truly love a movie or book, then show it by becoming an actor. A person who acts in the stead of those imaginary people. The world is waiting for your story to be told and you’re the only thing that’s missing.
The trilogy is not truly the king of cinema but rather stack-able stories. There’s no magical power to the number three. The key component to the greatest movie series is the way that the stories fit together and one movie can be catapulted based on the strengths of its predecessor. While I’m a huge movie fan and have been since my childhood, there is something that’s missing from the great movies that are being released today. Kids aren’t stacking them into their own lives.
Han Solo was my guy from about 4 until 10 years old. In the VHS culture of the day, my brothers and I would watch Star Wars and then play Star Wars for hours afterward. I was Han Solo for hours on end and it gave me a chance to wear his overconfident skin for a while. His character was stacked onto my personality for a bit and I’m sure that some of it stuck. After Han, there was Rocky Balboa. I never climbed in a ring or drank a cup of raw eggs but I got up at 6 am religiously and ran. Training for events or just life became part of my stroy.
While I think that the present day movie technology puts the 70s and 80s to shame, the greater shame is that since Iron Man’s mask is so readily available in the store, kids don’t need to wear his skin. Everything is prepackaged and fabricated to perfection so much that a young person is always separated from their heroes by a layer of plastic that none of the residue rubs off.
The human race has reached its place in the world through the stories that we tell ourselves. Thousands of years ago it started with a group of cavemen believing that they could collectively beat a saber tooth. Then a man told himself that steam could move machines. Now children are being told the most elaborate stories of all time but they are not stacking them like they used to. The story is a ceiling rather than a staircase. So if you are young or have contact with young people, stack those stories and attach them to your soul or the soul of someone else. It’s not just entertainment. It’s ENTERtrainMENT. A new world you can enter to train your mental image of yourself. So if you go out to the movies, be sure to go out afterwards and wear something new.
It’s a throwaway line from Star Wars: A New Hope. The purists will point out that the actual line is “This R2 Unit has a bad motivator!” but either way it is enough to stop the red droid in his tracks. At that point, it’s back in the sand crawler with the Jawas. There is something all too familiar about this situation. At times motivation seems like an illusive force that some people have the power to wield while others struggle to find it. There is nothing supernatural about it. The reason to do or not do something (don’t get me started on trying) is a mixture of chemicals that are released in our brains and the story that we tell ourselves. So if you’re not doing something that you want to (or know that you should), it’s because you’ve got a bad motivator.
In our society, we are rarely threatened by starvation, predators or a lack of resources. These were the things that motivated our ancestors. Theirs was a life linked heavily with necessity. Our needs have been replaced by our desires. Unfortunately for those with bad motivators, most of the things that are easily acquired come with bad side effects. Also the things that have true value often require a decent amount of effort. So the choice becomes do very little to gain the trivial or find the motivation to get the things that matter. The motivation that you seek is in the story that you tell yourself about your desired outcome. If you don’t have it, then your story sucks!
The story has to be consistent, compelling and relevant daily in order to get you to act. For example, many people continue to smoke despite the impending health risks. The story that they have for smoking must be very strong while their quitting story must be weak. Since the story that you have is made up by you or at least approved by you, you also have the power to change it. The power is in your belief. If you believe that you need to lose 20 pounds before October 15th or you need to donate $100 to an anti-charity, you will (I did that). It was surprisingly simple once the story was in place. I didn’t change the story for anyone. The monetary amount was enough to make it compelling. It was an important part of each and every day. I’d made myself the main character in a success story that I wanted to see come true. That was enough.
So do you have a bad motivator? Tell yourself a different story about that important thing that you want. It’s the most important thing to get this right because you’re the main character in the movie of your life. Why in the world would you settle for a crappy script? Start small with the chapter of today then build on that success. Most likely the only person stopping you is you.
Hanging on the wall in my son’s room is a stock certificate for one share of Disney stock. It was a gift at his birth from his Uncle Peter and Aunt Paula. More than anything it is decorative. At the time of its purchase, Disney stock was worth about $35. With the acquisition and release of Star Wars, it is now worth about $114. So in theory my son’s stock portfolio has performed very well. It is worth over 300% of its original value. The growth is outstanding but it’s not enough shares to create truly meaningful value. The stock was a gift, never truly meant to turn my son into an investor.
However the truth is that we are ALL investors! Stocks are a financial investment. That is the type of investment that most people think about when they hear the word. The truth is that we can invest in many types of currency. Right now you’re investing several of your most precious currencies on this blog post: time, attention and possibly trust. Many people don’t get involved in monetary investing because the markets are too unpredictable. There is the risk of major losses at stake. It is impossible to lose money, if you don’t put any in. People are usually conscious of how they invest their money. Often they are not as conscious about how they invest their other resources.
Time, attention, trust, love, respect and many others are all currencies that should be invested with more intelligence than money. Money is a renewable resource while time is not. If you lose twenty dollars, you can always make up for that loss. The lost twenty minutes is gone forever with no hope of replacement. Since money is tangible we give it extra reverence but these other currencies are as or more important. So perhaps it is time to look at your investment portfolio and decide if it is balanced. Have you put yourself into a position to be swimming in the assets that you have accrued through careful planning? Or will you feel bankrupt in the end because you squandered the resources that you had? You are an amazing human being who is destined to do great things if you’ll use your resources wisely!
Invest wisely today!
In a week’s time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be a cultural phenomena throughout the United States and the world. Millions of people will wait in line to be thrilled by the adventures of old and new heroes from “a galaxy far, far away.” As we (yep, Luke and I have tickets) sit there in the seats watching the new chapter of this modern day myth, some people will let their imaginations soar for two hours. Unfortunately that is where it will stop for many. The reason why Star Wars resonates with so many people is that it follows the formula of many of the greatest myths in history.
In his book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” Joseph Campbell deconstructs what he called the hero’s journey. For thousands of years, people have been retelling similar versions of the same basic story. The reason why it works is because the formula involves a regular person who is “called to adventure”. The fact that the hero’s journey is focused upon the development and ultimate triumph of the “every-man” makes it an almost irresistible hook for the general public. It is easy to see one’s self being called to a spectacular adventure and answering that call. Although we can picture ourselves answering the call to adventure, the call often does not come or is imperceptible.
In most of our lives, there are very few “calls to adventure”. The call needs to come from within. Expecting that the world is going to lift your butt off the couch and force you to do something great is foolish. Besides if a Sith Lord showed up at your door looking for a lightsaber duel, you’d probably sh– your pants. I would. You need to read the signs and choose your own adventure. Force yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone. Force yourself to be better than you’ve been in the past. Force yourself to engage with people and circumstances that would thrill you. GO FORCE YOURSELF because then you’ll have something to do until Episode 8 is released. Enjoy the movie and enjoy your life.
May the Force be with you.